Education chief stripped of the right to approve special schools

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Education chief stripped of the right to approve special schools

The Education Ministry this week stripped education superintendents of the right to approve new special-purpose high schools, in a move that may be the opening shot in the expected battle between entrenched conservatives and newly elected liberals over Korea’s education policy.

Korean law had given local education heads the sole right to select and approve the establishment of all special-purpose high schools in their regions. Under the regulations decreed on Tuesday, a new committee will be formed to review the approval of all new special-purpose high schools.

“The measure is meant to block education office chiefs from rejecting requests by eligible schools that sought approvals to run special-purpose high schools,” said Ku Ja-mun, a senior official at the ministry’s school system planning division.

Special-purpose high schools are meant to give Korea’s brightest students intensive training in areas in which they shine. The schools select their students based on merit.

Conservatives believe the schools enhance Korea’s human resources and are vital to its future, but liberals say the schools give an unfair edge to students who get expensive training at private institutes called hagwon.

The new regulations will be enforced from July 1, when 16 new superintendents are sworn into office - and some of the new chiefs have made it clear they’re unhappy with the ministry’s decision.

In concert with other education experts, they lashed out at the ministry’s move, arguing it targets liberals who promised to bring the number of special-purpose schools under control.

“The Education Ministry is changing the regulations for fear that its education policies will lose momentum once the liberals are in office,” said Gangwon education chief-elect Min Byeong-hui.

Ministry officials rejected the claim that the new regulations were enacted to thwart the liberal agenda.

“The ministry issued an advance notice that it would make some changes to the regulations in January,” another Education Ministry official said.

By Lee Won-jean, Kim Mi-ju []
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